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How COVID-19 has Affected Retail Interior Design

Posted on 27 May, 2020

As we start to look forward to the gentle easing of the current restrictions, an important consideration will be the layout of shops and other retail outlets. With social distancing still very much a matter of government policy, members of the design industry must ask themselves: how has COVID-19 affected retail interior design?

Social distancing

We’ve mentioned this already, but as the cornerstone of the government’s plan to mitigate the infection rate of coronavirus, it bears repeating. People are expected to maintain a 2-metre distance from anybody who is not a member of their household. What this means in terms of interior design is significant. Aisles will need to be made wider in some stores, to allow for adequate space between customers. This will have a knock-on effect on store planning, as restricted shelf space may require a more inventive layout to maximise sales.

One-way streets

Another way for retail outlets to account for social distancing is to introduce a one-way system. As the major supermarkets have already been doing, arrows on the floor can direct customers around the store in a particular flow. This immediately doubles the space for customers in any given aisle and prevents people from squeezing past one another. From an interior design perspective, the challenge is to create a system that allows people to hop in and out of the flow, while preventing bottlenecks and tailbacks around the store.

Check-out areas

Cashier staff are some of the unsung heroes of the recent crisis. As much key workers as our hospital and teaching staff, they go into work day-after-day to provide us with our essentials. As more shops open up, the same will be true of their front-of-house staff. Keeping staff and customers safe will be the store’s top priority, and will require some invention on the part of their interior designers.


While the government is pushing its latest slogan of “Stay Alert” for the current phase of lockdown, many stores will be keen to promote their own messages, consistent with their branding. This will require a careful balance between customer information and corporate responsibility, without scaring their clientele. A challenge for both the graphic designers and the interior designers, as they will need to plan the appropriate places to post their new messages on social distancing in-store.

If you’re looking for an interior design job – whether in the retail sector or elsewhere – be sure to register with Careers in Design and upload you latest CV. This will give you access to the latest upcoming vacancies in the interior design industry.

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